Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Baha’u’llah as the Hindu Kalki Avatar

Baha’is worldwide proclaim Baha’u’llah as the “Promised One” of all religions.

This refers to the truth-claim that Baha’u’llah fulfills the messianic expectations of the world’s religions. It’s quite a claim, actually. It’s even more interesting when comparing Baha’u’llah’s claims to the actual prophecies themselves.

In this series, Christian and Islamic prophecies have been the primary focus. But to illustrate the universality of Baha’u’llah’s claims, let’s take a look at some other prophetic traditions. Take Hindu prophecies, for instance. This topic is well worth exploring, considering the fact that the country with the largest population of Baha’is today happens to be India, the world’s largest democracy, where the majority of the religious population are Hindus.

How did I end up studying Hindu prophecies in the first place? Around 1980, I joined the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which is the largest learned society of scholars in the academic study of religion in America. (I was invited to join AAR by Prof. Paul Achtemeier (d. 2013), former President of the Society of Biblical Literature, which was affiliated with the AAR.) I paid my dues. But I was not a professor. Instead, I was self-taught—an “autodidact.”

The first AAR paper that I ever presented was on Hindu prophecy is available online.

In popular Hindu religion, the future Messiah will be known as Kalki (the “Destroyer”). That name alone says a great deal about the nature of these prophecies. Basically, Kalki fights a big war against his enemies, the first of whom are Buddhists! The idea that Buddhists are evil gives pause for thought.

The scenario of a cosmic battle between good and evil is a common theme that pervades apocalyptic texts throughout the world’s religions. Some of these texts are highly imaginative, as well as vivid in their scenarios of the future.

Yet these texts, generally speaking, lack imagination in one respect: they cannot conceive of the triumph of good over evil by means that are good rather than evil, especially if one considers war is basically evil—even if a war is a “necessary evil,” i.e. a “just war” for defensive purposes.

But Kalki does not defend. Instead, he conquers. In other words, Kalki is seen as a great military leader. However, he is not a great spiritual leader.

So how do we get from Kalki to Baha’u’llah in terms of fulfillment of Hindu prophecy? Here’s an even more fundamental question: Why would anyone want to see this cosmic battle take place anyway?

Let’s look at a couple of representative texts. Among the many Hindu scriptures, there is a Hindu counterpart to the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible which is filled with prophecies regarding the time of the end, and the return of Jesus Christ. This Hindu work is called the Kalki Purana.

At the time that I wrote my paper, the Kalki Purana had not been translated. But since then, the Kalki Purana has been translated. One translation is available on the Internet: Sri Kalki Purana, by Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasadeva, translated by Bhumipati Das and edited by Purnaprajna Das, with Sanskrit transliterations and verse translations (Mathura: Jai Nitai Press, 2006).

We all know that war is not spiritual—but Kalki fights a big war. So is Kalki spiritual?

Chapter 14 of the Kalki Purana is entitled, “ Lord Kalki Conquers the Buddhists Who Opposed Him” (pp. 148–160). One can understand the desire to defeat one’s opponents. One way is by force. Another way is by persuasion, or at least by some kind of agreement through dialogue.

Baha’u’llah did not fight a war. He was a prisoner and exile, not a military leader. As a prisoner in Akka, and before when he was in Edirne (Adrianople), Baha’u’llah proclaimed his mission to the kings and religious leaders of the world, and undertook what might be regarded as the first international peace mission of modern history. So, in order for Baha’u’llah to be the messianic fulfillment of the Kalki prophecies, we need to radically reinterpret the prophecies themselves so as to spiritualize them.

A few similar chapter titles from the Kalki Purana serve to reinforce this point: Chapter 15: “Lord Kalki Is Attacked by the Mleccha [foreign] Women: Instructions by the Weapons Personified;” Chapter 20: “Lord Kalki Travels to Bhallatanagara Sasidhvaja: a Great Battle Takes Place.”

The Kalki Purana has 35 chapters. Two of the closing chapters are entitled: Chapter 32: “Lord Kalki Enjoys Pastimes With His Consort”; Chapter 33: “The Demigods Arrive at Shambala: The Disappearance of Lord Kalki.”
Let’s take a look at chapter 19:

“The Appearance of Satya Yuga: Description of the Different Manus.” If there were to be any positive spiritual teachings in the Kalki Purana, one would expect to find them in this chapter.

Hinduism has a doctrine of cycles of time, or various “ages.” Kali Yuga is the period of greatest evil. Satya Yuga is the Golden Age, which analogously corresponds to the Millennium in Christian prophecy, except that the former lasts 4,000 (“celestial”) years, while Kali Yuga is 1,000 years (or 1,200 years, if the “transitional years” of 100 years, before and after, are included), according to Sri Yukteswar (The Holy Science, 1894, p. xv). (“Celestial” years are vast spans of time.) But these time periods vary, depending on the tradition. (Some say Kali Yuga lasts 432,000 years!) Kalki appears at the end of Kali Yuga. Chapter 19 closes with these two verses:

I am the personified Satya Yuga. During my lifetime, pure religious principles are observed and protected. I have received the name Satya Yuga because the people [of] this age are pious and truthful. – Text 17.

Lord Kalki was surrounded by His associates, and after hearing these words of Satya Yuga, He felt delighted. The Lord, in consideration of the arrival of Satya Yuga, ordered His devotees as follows, with a desire to root out Kali [a demon Kali (not to be confused with the goddess Kālī).]: “Pick up your weapons and prepare yourselves to march.”– Text 18–20.

In Chapter 20, “Lord Kalki Goes Out to Conquer Kali and His Allies,” Kalki announces:

You know very well that at the request of Grandfather Brahma, I have assumed this form of Kalki avatara [avatar] … I am just about to set out on a tour to conquer all the kings of the world.– Texts 24–25.
So there you have it: Kalki is a conqueror. Baha’u’llah is a peacemaker, who announced:

… the establishment of the Lesser Peace, details of which have formerly been revealed from Our Most Exalted Pen. Great is the blessedness of him who upholdeth it and observeth whatsoever hath been ordained by God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 23.

In the next essay, we will further explore how Baha’u’llah, the peacemaker, can be considered the fulfillment of the Hindu prophecies regarding Lord Kalki, the conqueror.

Written by :
Christopher Buck (PhD, JD) is an attorney and an independent scholar who has written several books, including God & Apple Pie (2015), with an introduction by J. Gordon Melton (Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, Baylor University), Religious Myths and Visions of America (2009, “an original contribution to American studies,” Journal of American History, June 2011), Alain Locke: Faith and Philosophy (2005), Paradise and Paradigm (1999), Symbol and Secret (1995/2004), Religious Celebrations (co-author, 2011), and also contributed chapters in such books as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity (2013), American Writers (2010 & 2004), The Islamic World (2008), and The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an (2006). See us.academia.edu/ChristopherBuck and bahai-library.com/Buck.

Originally published at : http://bahaiteachings.org

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Baha'i School ranked among the top Boarding Schools in India

RiverDale School has been ranked among the top Boarding Schools in India second year running. In its annual rankings for 2017-18, Education Today has ranked RiverDale 4th in India, and 1st in Maharashtra and Pune among all Boarding Schools in India. Received the award on behalf of the School at the awards ceremony in Bangalore moments ago.

This achievement is clear acknowledgement of the hard-work and care with which the school staff have been discharging their duties and responsibilities, and the diligence with which the students have been responding to the guidance and efforts of their teachers, dorm-parents and other staff.

Congratulations to the entire RiverDale School community.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Learning from Fund Gatherings held in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry

Dearly loved friends

Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of India and is bordered by the Union territory of Puducherry. It is a land famed for its Hindu temple architecture, miles and miles of coastline and its fiery and distinctive cuisine. It is also home to over thirty two thousand Bahá'ís and the entire region is divided into eighty six clusters with thirty six Local Spiritual Assemblies tending to the needs of local communities.

As the activities in the region intensify and grow in number, the Regional Bahá'í Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry has undertaken a systematic process of fund education. Increasingly, individuals see giving to the fund as a part of their Bahá'í identity, communities afford all an opportunity to contribute without emphasis being laid on the amount, and institutions are learning to have a high sense of justice and a flexibility that comes from an understanding of different realities in clusters. A review of the Ruhi institute materials makes it clear that giving to the funds is an important element of a vibrant community. As Bahá'í communities expand, the spiritual obligation of contributing acquires added importance and should be increasingly supported by the entire body of the believers. Friends in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are utilizing spaces already in place - such as the Nineteen Day Feasts, home visits and other gatherings to raise awareness about the funds.

The Council initially thought of having fund education gatherings at the regional level. However, it soon realized that participation at regional gatherings was much less than at the village level. Many believers are involved in daily labour and a village gathering enabled them to participate. Also, the friends learned that there was very little participation of families at the regional level but when the gathering was held in the locality or village, more family members participated. Children who attended Bahá'í classes also came and soon began the habit of contributing. The setting allowed for home visits so all could be invited and no one felt excluded. These household visits facilitated discussion on subjects that came up naturally, such as family life, service and contributions and soon fund gatherings began to stimulate growth of other activities in the area. In this way, fund education began to enhance the community building process and was seen as an effort that strengthened it, than being seen as a separate process.

At the regional level, it was sometimes a struggle to understand the reality of individuals and their lives but at the village level one could talk to people in their settings and gain a much deeper appreciation for their sacrifice and contributions. The nature of expenses of the gatherings also changed. Regional gatherings were organised and funded by the Regional Council, but at the village level, households were involved in organising these and they soon became self-sufficient because the community hosted them in their homes and contributed to tea and snacks.

As part of the on-going efforts of the Regional Bahá'í Council to raise consciousness of the spiritual nature of giving, the Treasurer of the Council, along with fourteen assistant Treasurers in the clusters, make regular visits to Local Assemblies and individuals, sharing with them the importance of the fund and encouraging universal participation. Initially it was felt that Local Spiritual Assemblies could assist better if they are relatively strong and are functioning well. However, in one instance, the fund gathering itself assisted the Local Spiritual Assembly in its functioning. At a recent fund gathering, the assistant to the Treasurer was requested to help in organizing. He suggested that the Treasurer of the Council should meet with the Local Spiritual Assembly. Through calling this meeting, the Local Assembly met for the first time and elected its office bearers. They consulted together on funds and this soon led to discussion and planning for the bicentenary celebrations as well. The Local Assembly then decided it would take responsibility for the fund gathering. They organised one week of home visits prior to the gathering and another week after the gathering. A list of available Assembly members going on these visits was made. The Treasurer of the Council joined them two days prior to the gathering and also assisted with home visits. Thirty friends attended the fund gathering. Following this, the Local Spiritual Assembly met again and decided that they would hold regular Nineteen Day Feasts and open a local bank account. The Council is learning that these fund gatherings provide an opportunity to work closely with Local Spiritual Assemblies.

As a result of these systematic efforts the friends are becoming increasingly aware that it is each one’s spiritual obligation to support the Bahá'í fund. A culture is gradually emerging where greater numbers of believers are contributing as sacrificially as their means allow. If their economic status does not allow them to contribute in cash, they give to Bahá’u’lláh in kind or through physical labour. At a fund gathering in Virudhunagar, friends were inspired to think of ways by which they could contribute. In this area there is a great demand for fire-crackers used during festivals throughout the year and believers decided that they would make these, sell them and give their earnings to the Faith. Other believers grew a type of bitter melon that is very popular among locals, sold these and contributed the sale proceeds to God.

At another fund gathering in Vellore, a student said that she wanted to contribute. The Treasurer of the Council asked how she would do that since she was still in school. She said she would work after school hours in a factory that made bricks. The next week she gave the Treasurer a small box with money in it. Wanting to understand better the spirit of devotion and sacrifice that went into this contribution, the Treasurer visited the brick factory and saw for himself the hard physical labour the young girl was putting in – her hands turning red as she continuously placed the bricks line by line.

May these efforts so strenuously exerted be sustained and blessed by Him who is vigilantly watching from on high the self-sacrifice of His faithful believers.


* * *

Forthcoming meeting of the National Spiritual Assembly

17th, 18th & 19th November 2017, New Delhi.

Healing message of Baha'u'llah to the President of India.

NSA Members Ms. Nazneen Rohani and Mrs. Zena Sorablee

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulates Baha'is on the birth anniversary of Baha'u'llah.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Iraj Abedian participates in the "7th International Conference on the "Role of Religion in Development", hosted by City Montessori School (CMS) in Lucknow, India.

by Mr. Iraj Abedian

Participation in the "7th International Conference on the "Role of Religion in Development" , hosted by City Montessori School (CMS) in Lucknow, India, was an amazing learning experience and a unique opportunity to meet some truly remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds & divergent ideological persuasions. The Honourable Dr Adel Omar Sherif, Deputy Chief Justice of Egypt, was one such personality. He has been the chief advisor for the conference since inception. Ms Tahirih Danesh provided remarkable insights, Prof Siraj Khan, Dr Muin Afnani & many others shared valuable inputs. Dr Jagdish Gandhi & his wife Dr Bharti Gandhi are nothing less than remarkable after over 50 years of dedicated service, and now in their 80s, they remain inspirational in their efforts to promote unity, build solid scientific&moral foundations for over 55000 scholars who are enrolled in the world-renowned CMS campuses in Lucknow. Our dear Katya & her friends are volunteers at CMS, involved in Junior Youth Empowerment Programme. Seeing Katya was a real cherry on top of all other blessings of this trip. We also had a 2-hour evening tour of Lucknow, so our hosts catered for all our interests with true Indian hospitality and generosity. Lucknow is known as the Shiraz of India! Shiraz is a well known city in the southern Iran famous for its poets, mystics, roses& the nightingales. The true significance of Shiraz however extends far beyond its historic fame- a tale that is best left for another occasion!

As I head back home, I cannot but wonder at the pace with which our human civilization is decaying whilst at the same time marvel at the fact that millions of our fellow humans are awakening to the reality that we all have a role to play in arresting the decay, rejuvenating the social cohesion, caring for the environment & expending our resources in the promotion of human solidarity. We surely have the scientific tools, but can we muster the required moral and spiritual commitment in this regard? For those at the conference the answer was exemplary & positive!